Architectural Design

January 11, 2010

My assigned design discipline was architecture, which, to put it in basic terms, is the art and science of designing buildings or other structures.  It can, however, also encompass a broader range of related concepts, such as designing outdoor spaces, designing the flow of a web page, or designing any highly structured system.  For the purposes of this explanation, I’ll stick to buildings.

When designing a building, an architect’s job might include many aspects of design, from the actual look of the building, to the project planning, to cost estimation, to the supervising of construction.  Yet there can be much creative freedom in being an architect, depending on the needs of the building.  Sometimes a building needs to be functional and not pretty, such as a basic apartment building.  More often than not, though, an architect chooses the visual style, materials, and all the ingredients he needs to create his structure.  The ultimate goal is to have a building that is pleasing for those who will use it or see it, so many elements of design are utilized to execute this.

One important element of design is texture, the tactile or visual “feel” of a surface.  A Stone CottageThis can help a great deal when an architect wishes to elicit a particular reaction, such as with this stone cottage.  The rough, jagged stone arrangement, combined with the timber wood, conveys a sense of earthiness and a connection with nature, which is fitting for a forest cottage. Grass-covered BuildingConcrete would have seemed out of place here, to say the least.  Texture is also used to great extent with this “green” building on the left.  While the primary purpose was to create an eco-friendly building here, I would also argue that the architect specifically used the terraced grass effect to make the building seem more calm and inviting amidst a sea of steel and glass.  The fact that one entire, sloped side is covered in grass also reminds the viewer of a hill, and stirs up feelings of grass running between one’s fingers.  At least, it does for me.

Form is another element of design which can be used to great effect by architects.  While most buildings are indeed square, it is perhaps this pervasive box design that can cause an unusually-shaped building to stand out all the more.  My first example is the Sydney Opera House, on the right, the shape of which evokes majestic sails in the Sydney Harbor.  The progenitors of the Opera House project could have decided on a conventional design, but instead they wanted something different.  The result has come to symbolize Sydney, and, indeed, Australia.  Yet, as I said earlier, architecture is also about function, so those sail-shaped halls were also designed to provide a unique acoustic experience.

Secondly, I point to our own local Space Needle as an instance of an impressive use of form.  Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Needle contains Googie architectural elements, from the skinny main tower up to the observation deck/restaurant level, that create such a unique look that the Needle continues to define images of Seattle the world over.  Even with the World’s Fair come and gone, the Space Needle’s unmistakable profile remains as a major tourist attraction.

Value is also an element of design that architects utilize.  More often than not, this is done through choice of material, the different values of which can reveal character in a building.  Take the Empire State Building, for instance.  Seen up close, the different values of limestone, combined with the crisp, Art Deco lines of the style, make for a truly elegant building.

This church is also a great example of value.  Since the architect chose brick as his medium of construction, we can see different values of brick dotted throughout the facade.  Not only can we tell the relative age based on that fact, but it lends a certain character to this old building.  Look carefully at the sheer variety of values found here.  It really makes the building have an old, dusty look.

For a local architecture company, I chose MulvannyG2 Architecture, a well-known firm whose projects include Redmond City Hall and the Tacoma Convention and Trade Center.  Website:  Phone No.:  425-463-2000.


One Response to “Architectural Design”

  1. Karrin said

    Beautiful examples of architecture! Especially love the “green” building, Sydney opera house and mostly the photo of the space needle and moon. Gorgeous 😀

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